When life throws a curveball
Every now and again life seems to find a way of throwing us a curve ball. That was the feeling that dominated my mind as I tried to absorb the news that the process for selecting my successor as Archbishop of Durban had been deferred indefinitely. Sine die is the expression used.
So, my retirement was not to begin immediately as I had anticipated. My next thought took the form of a question: Is this how the Lord is responding to the good health with which I have been blessed recently? The brute fact is that good health or not, I was battling to cope with the triple demands of ministering to the Archdiocese of Durban, to the Bishops’ Conference, and to the Council for the Economy at the Vatican.
Consequently, towards the end of the Synod of Bishops’ session in October 2018, I consulted the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples about the progress, if any, in the process of appointing an Auxiliary Bishop to serve the Archdiocese. I was utterly shocked by his reply: “We do not appoint Auxiliaries to Bishops who are about to retire or who have already done so. We appoint Coadjutors! Oh! Is that so? Is all I could mumble. I left Rome completely in the dark as to what was to follow!
I was, therefore, completely taken aback when the Nuncio called to inform me that there was news for the Archdiocese. “Bishop Abel Gabuza has been appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Durban! Are you okay with that?”
I was preoccupied with preparations for World Youth Day in Panama, so I didn’t have much time to dwell on the matter, apart from Googling to find out exactly what a Coadjutor was, what he did as well as when and in what circumstances he would take over.
These questions were answered with authority when I met Pope Francis in Rome. As I greeted him, he responded with this clear instruction: “You must remain! We have given you assistance. So, now you must please stay on!”
What a difference it has made to have had the cloud of doubt and uncertainty lifted.
Whatever happens and when the time is ripe, Archbishop Abel will be there to take over.
What is a Coadjutor? Some might wonder why I had to Google to find out what a Coadjutor is and what he does. Well, it was the first time in my life that I’d come across this reality, especially in South Africa.
So, I was glad to hear that simply put a Coadjutor Archbishop is an assistant Bishop who in this case has been given the title of “Archbishop” because as Coadjutor he has the right to succeed the sitting Archbishop.
The Mass of Reception was a most joyful, yet solemn celebration by the Archdiocese, appropriately supported by the presence of the members of our Bishop’s Conference who were in session at the time. But best of all was the tremendously large racially and culturally mixed congregation that had gathered to welcome their new shepherd! That alone made me really happy. I was also proud of the wonderful way the Faithful of the Archdiocese came out to express their open-hearted welcome and acceptance of the one who would continue the long selfless service offered by my and his predecessors.
As Archbishop Abel Gazuba becomes more known to you, my hope is that he will receive the same open-hearted welcome and acceptance from you, and from the entire Zulu Mission supporter family.